DENVER, Dec. 23 (Ticker) -- Carmelo Anthony and the Denver Nuggets stopped their skid.

Anthony scored 21 of his 25 points in the first half and Marcus Camby added 12 points and 16 rebounds as the Nuggets snapped their four-game slide with a 108-86 victory over the shorthanded Houston Rockets.

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Defense was the key for Denver, which forced Houston into dismal 31 percent (27-of-86) from the field, including 5-of-24 from 3-point range. Rockets superstar Tracy McGrady made just 4-of-17 shots.

"We tried to make someone else other than McGrady beat us tonight," Denver coach George Karl said. "They were off and we played with a lot more passion and heart tonight."

The Nuggets held a 22-15 lead at the start of the first quarter before Anthony caught fire, scoring 13 points in the period. He capped it off with a 3-pointer as time expired to build a 52-37 advantage at intermission.

"Tonight was a must win," said Anthony, who made 9-of-19 shots. "We came out with a lot of energy from the start. Both teams have been struggling, so it was important to come out of the gates like we did."

The Nuggets picked up right where they left off after the break, opening with a 12-2 run. Andre Miller and DerMarr Johnson scored six points apiece in the period, which ended with Denver holding a 79-55 lead.

"It is a lot easier when everyone contributes like they did tonight," said Johnson, who scored 10 points. "When you need a win, it is nice to get one like we did."

Miller had 19 points and nine assists and Earl Watson added 12 off the bench for Denver, which shot 47 percent (41-of-86) and made 7-of-15 from downtown.

"Andre and Earl did a great job of getting the ball up the court all night," said Nuggets center Marcus Camby, who had four blocked shots. "We had more players then they did tonight. You can never complain about a win, but we all know we can play even better."

The Nuggets had been struggling on defense, allowing an average of 109 points during their skid. But they turned it around against the Rockets, who are groping for offense without injured All-Star center Yao Ming.

"What you saw was exactly what you would see with a bad lottery team," Houston coach Jeff Van Gundy said. "We were beaten tonight before the game started by our attitude. We we're very weak-minded and put very little effort into the game."

McGrady, coming off a season-low seven points against Toronto, scored 17 points but was harassed all game.

"It's a tough time right now," said McGrady, who added seven boards and four assists. "We have a lot of guys out of our lineup and I'm having to face double-teams every night. It's been very frustrating. Somehow, someway, we've got to figure things out."

Juwan Howard scored 18 points and Stromile Swift added 11 for the Rockets, who have dropped three of their last four games. Rookie guard Luther Head struggled, scoring just five points on 2-of-13 shooting.